Divine Love and Wisdom

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The middle, the core, the essence of God is love. This divine love is the transcendent “stuff” that drives, creates, and sustains everything – all things that exist on all planes of existence.

Love wants to work, to flow, to create happiness. How does it do it? Through wisdom. The power of the divine love can be formed and ultimated by operating through divine wisdom.

There’s a marriage between the two – divine love and divine wisdom. Swedenborg refers to them in Latin terms, as the Esse and Existere, roughly translated in English as Essence and Existence.

This conjunction, or marriage, is at the very heart of it all. It is represented in the successive degrees of creation, down to the physical universe, and in life on earth. In our minds, there is love, and there is wisdom. If we unite our good loves to wise thinking, we’re then able to create happiness, too, each in our own unique way.

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Abraham and Isaac (Bible study)

I think that God is loving, so some stories in the Bible make me do a double-take—“God said what?!”

God-said-whatThe book of Genesis tells a story like that. God said to Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.” Abraham complies, takes Isaac and binds him on the altar, but at the last second the angel of the Lord intervenes and stops Abraham from killing his son (Genesis 22).

I imagine you might react like me—“Wait… What?!… No way! God would never ask for that—would He?” To be fair, part of the point of the story is that Abraham trusted God enough to do something that seemed like it would destroy everything for which he had worked, hoped and prayed. If God had asked for something less extreme, it wouldn’t have been a test of his faith. At least we can say that God never really intended that Isaac should actually be sacrificed. Still, that leaves us wondering whether God was lying to Abraham, and whether we should have such complete faith in a God who asks us to make such extreme sacrifices.

The Bible says that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). True Christianity tells that, in reality, God cannot turn away from us or even look at us with a frown” (56). Still, we see people—even the innocent—suffering. Since earliest times people have assumed that God punishes us for displeasing Him, but the teachings of the New Church invite us to look more deeply at the Bible.

From earliest times people knew from prophecy that Divine Love would take on a human manifestation in the world, and that this Human would take on our challenges and give everything, even His life, to help us overcome evil. Eventually, though, this belief was twisted into the horrible idea that God could somehow be pleased with sacrificial murder of His Son, or with human sacrifice in general. That terrible belief was widespread in Abraham’s time, and Abraham could not grasp sacrifice in any other terms.

On a literal level, the Bible shows Abraham believing that God really wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Yet elsewhere the Bible states that God did not desire nor command that kind of sacrifice. “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire…burnt offering and sin offering You have not required” (Psalm 40:6).

On a deeper level this story is telling us symbolically what love is like. Genuine love is sacrificial. We should never sacrifice our children though we may sacrifice for our children and help them learn to sacrifice compassionately for others. A mother may go hungry herself to give food to her starving child. A soldier may give his life to protect his country and a fireman may give his life to rescue people from a burning building. A person in love may overlook and forgive a thousand little injuries and failings, because love is compassionate and is willing to suffer in order to protect and provide for loved ones. “Greater love has no one than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).


The Rev. John Odhner is an Assistant to the Pastor at the Bryn Athyn Church (www.brynathynchurch.org).

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Full issue

DAILY INSPIRATION

“You are not made happy by the true things you believe from your faith, but by the goodness which comes from your faith.”

Arcana Coelestia 4984

God – Is there really one?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Creator God
God as Creative Force

Many people sense that there is a deeper aspect of reality. A spiritual force behind the universe.

To my mind this divine level of what is real is pure love and the source of all that explains the meaning of life. It is wisely working away in our hearts and minds. This is the infinite and eternal God of religion, beyond gender, beyond the bounds of space and time, and beyond our full comprehension.

Christ as God

According to much western world religion, this mighty spiritual force is manifest as the Christ within the human soul who inspires our feelings and thoughts with his altruistic love and higher intelligence. A new way of expressing this is as follows. We are an image of Christ’s divine humanity who like us has heart, head and hands – although in his case it is a heart of compassion, a head of wisdom and hands of power.

This is the Christ with whom we can pray and relate to on a personal footing; the divine that flows into our conscience to guide us towards the ethical and moral life. Of ourselves we do not have the ability to inspire and illuminate our lives. But cooperating with the Christ within we can find the divine life as if it were our own.

Intervention of God

Many people can accept that there is no dark side to God and that human suffering and what is evil is caused by some human beings turning away from the values of mutual care and instead focusing exclusively on self-orientation. In my view the Divine is all-loving, all-knowing and whilst present everywhere is beyond time and place. It respects our freedom to decide for ourselves what kind of life we want to lead and so does not intrude to control human affairs.

This deity does not stop suffering, and like loving parents does allow us, the offspring, to learn the lessons of life the hard way whilst at the same time it counter-balances what is bad by providing what is good. Parents continue to provide for and support their children throughout their difficulties and misfortunes. When God does this for all of us, it is called the work of loving providence.

I would say that Divine life flows invisibly into the world to offset disease with healing, temper hate with love, and moderate despair with inspiration. This is done in relation to the smallest detail of life and so despite how things appear, nothing actually happens by chance. If the work of providence were obvious then we would not be free to believe or disbelieve in the divine as the spiritual origin of our lives.

According to this view, God is concerned with long-term goals not short-lived happiness. Only in retrospect can we hope to see the way traumas and suffering has functioned as growth points in our spiritual learning.

Evidence for God

One cannot prove the existence of God which is invisible. But there is evidence to support the Divine nature. Unless God were revealed, humanity would only have a dim awareness that the divine within comes from a higher power creating all that is good. And so I would say that God is manifest as the Christ of history. Also facets of the divine are shown both in the world of nature and in the sacred scriptures of the world’s religions.

Nature is said to be red in tooth and claw. But it also shows a positive side. There is beauty as well as ugliness in plant life, affection as well as cruelty in the animal kingdom, and safety as well as danger on land and sea. What is good in nature symbolically shows the qualities of the divine in our thoughts and feelings. What is bad mirrors the corrupting influence of humanity’s self-orientation.

The Divine is widely acknowledged as revealed in sacred writings of especially inspired individuals. Beneath the various authentic religious traditions and customs there is a common core of spiritual teaching. This is not surprising if they have a common source. What is revealed is what all religions teach i.e. :-

  • Human beings experience two realms of reality, the world of physical objects and the world of spirit, the latter being the realm of consciousness.
  • We have a centre of transcendent awareness and are able to relate intimately to the divine spark, which is the foundation of all reality.
  • Realising our spiritual nature is the highest goal and greatest good of human existence.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-LacyAuthor of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

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th July 2010CategoriesMeaning of life, ReligionTags, ,, , , , ,, , , , , ,, , ,  Leave a comment

Infinity and Eternity

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This is single light soap bubble photograph taken under macro photography with Canon 6D and Tokina 100 f/2.8 Macro lens.

The word “finite” means that something has limits or boundaries. It comes from the same root word as finish, as in the finish line in a race. When something is finite it means that if you go on far enough, you will come to an end. If there is no end, then it’s not finite; it’s “infinite”.

Similarly, The word “eternal” means unbounded by time.

We can almost, but not quite, imagine something that is infinite and eternal. To think of something that is really really big, or that takes a really long time, isn’t quite accurate, because we really need to think of something that transcends physical size and duration. But it’s at least a start, in stretching our minds to consider what the nature of God could be.

Here we have a physical universe. It must have come from something. Plus, we have these glimpses that there are spiritual realities, too. Mathematics suggests that there are more “dimensions” needed to help make sense of the physical world. These things are at least suggestive that God exists.

In New Christian theology, there is an infinite, eternal God. He is Divine Love, which is the wellspring of everything, and Divine Wisdom, which gives form to that love. He is unbounded by space or time.

That conception might make God seem distant and impersonal, but logically, that doesn’t need to be the case. An infinite God is “big enough”, capable enough to be both creating and sustaining the universe AND flowing into each one of us in ways attuned to our ability to receive his influx. A God who has the perspective of eternity also has the ability within that to operate in our lives, in our time, even if we can’t perceive it.

These concepts are at the limits of many kinds of thought – science, philosophy, mathematics, and religion. There IS an underlying harmony of those disciplines, but it’s hard to see sometimes, particularly because we can be blocked by preconceptions and because we’re operating with finite minds, wrestling with things that we can only really see appearances of. (References: True Christian Religion 27

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Chapter XXIV. The Third Degree of Regeneration.

< Chapter XXIII. The Second Degree of Regeneration. ^ Discrete Degrees ^ Chapter XXV. The Wicked. >

THIS diagram presents man regenerated to the highest or celestial degree a of his spiritual mind. The corresponding degrees of the natural, b and c, are also regenerated and conjoined to the highest. He now enjoys celestial perception. He leads a life the highest, purest, and happiest possible, performing uses the most essential and universal, the life and use of celestial love and wisdom and of inmost innocence and peace. The measure of every recipient faculty in every plane is full. The lower degrees of the spiritual mind opened and lived through as he passed on to the highest are closed beneath the one he now inhabits. Still, gathering their harvests of good and truth and garnering them in those lower planes, he extracted their celestial essences and bore them with him to his lofty home where the very primitives of the life and delight of the lower degrees bloom and fructify to eternity. (AC 5114; HH 208.)

The whole natural man (except the gross body to be rejected) is joined to the spiritual mind and ever after acts as one with it, the willing servant of a heavenly lord and master. Dying in this state man rises to an abode in the celestial heaven.

From the above concord of the natural with the spiritual there is however this abatement, the vanquished but not exterminated evils from the father and any actual evils that may have existed, though dormant, still remain in the circumference of the spiritual-sensual and spiritual-corporeal. These evils by the force of the ever increasing good within are continually pressed out into the farthest verge of that plane, where (though dormant) they cannot but emit deleterious effluvia which must sink from the highlands where the angels reside down into the lowlands surrounding the hells. (AC 4564, 1414, 1444, 4551, 4552.) In the above abatement must be included the limbus so far as tinctured with actual evil therein enrooted or affected by the influence of unexterminated evil in the higher degrees.

ON page 59 we deferred our interpretation of the teaching that with those who come into heaven, the limbus is below and the spiritual above, but the reverse with those who come into hell. The whole passage is as follows:

“The soul which is from the father is the man himself, and the body, which is from the mother is not in itself the man, but from him. The body is only the clothing of the soul woven of such [substances] as are of the natural world; but the soul is of such [substances] as are in the spiritual world. Every man after death lays aside the natural which he carried from the mother and retains the spiritual which was from the father, together with a certain limbus of the purest [substances] of nature around it; but this limbus with those who come into heaven is below, and the spiritual above, but the limbus, with those who come into hell, is above, and the spiritual below; thence it is that a man-angel speaks from heaven, thus what is good and true; but that a man-devil speaks from hell while from his heart, and as it were from heaven while from his mouth; this he does abroad, but that at home. “- TCR 103

This cannot mean that the limbus of the wicked is above their spiritual organism. Natural substances being created from spiritual must be below them and be their base. The wicked being in inverted order esteem the sensuals and corporeals of the limbus as more valuable than the spiritual, thus above the spiritual. With the good, true order is preserved, they hold the spiritual as above and the sensual as beneath. (AC 5076, 5077, 5094, 4552; TCR 402.)

We say man receives the Divine Love and Wisdom; but strictly these are of such order and force that no finite human organism could bear the least contact with them. What then is received? Men are organized of created substances spiritual and natural and receive life from the LORD which in itself is the inmost activity of the Divine Love and Wisdom. (TCR 471, 472.) Even this life cannot be received as it is in the LORD but as flowing forth from Him and moderated by the substances of the sun of the spiritual world and the atmospheres through which it passes. This proceeding Divine is dual, the activity of the Divine Love inmostly affecting man’s will and the activity of the Divine Wisdom affecting his understanding, producing in them states correspondent to Love and Wisdom in the LORD. (TCR 39.)


Previous: Chapter XXIII. The Second Degree of Regeneration. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Chapter XXV. The Wicked.

Chapter IX. The Mind in Three Degrees. – Another View.

 

AMONG the passages illustrated by this diagram is the following from Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and concerning the Divine Wisdom,

“There are three degrees of altitude in every man from birth, and they may be opened successively; and so far as they are opened man is in the LORD and the LORD in him….”These three degrees of altitude are named natural, spiritual and celestial. When man is born he first comes into the natural degree, and this grows in him by continuity according to knowledges and according to the understanding acquired by them to the highest of understanding which is called the rational. Yet the second degree which is called spiritual is not hereby opened. The spiritual is opened by the love of uses from intellectuals, but by the spiritual love of uses, which love is love toward the neighbor. This degree likewise may grow by degrees of continuity to its highest, and it grows by the cognitions of truth and good, or by spiritual truths. Yet the third degree which is called celestial is not opened by these, but by the celestial love of use, which love is love to the LORD, and love to the LORD is nothing else than committing to life the precepts of the Word.

“.. When man puts off the natural degree, which he does when he dies, he comes into the degree which was opened in him in the world; into the spiritual, he in whom the spiritual degree was opened; into the celestial, he in whom the celestial degree was opened.”- DLW 236, 237, 238.

The degrees of altitude, celestial, spiritual and natural, mentioned in the passage above, are B C D. During life in the world D includes the natural body as well as the natural mind.

The degrees described in paragraph 256 of the same work, higher than the natural, are also two, as in the above extract. In the light of these statements consider the diagram. The two higher degrees are here equivalent to the whole spiritual mind, – B answering to the celestial kingdom, C to the spiritual. Below the spiritual mind is the natural D, called also the external, sometimes the lowest degree, including the material body during life in the world.

This diagram illustrates also True Christian Religion, 239. The statement in this number as in the extract above that the natural degree of the regenerate is put off by death, although involving the rejection of the material body, yet chiefly means the closure of the natural mind with an elevation of the consciousness into the spiritual or into the celestial of the internal mind, according to the degree of regeneration attained.

Elevation after death above the natural into any one of the higher degrees and thus into heaven can be predicated only of the regenerate; the unregenerate remain in the natural degree.

This diagram represents the internal mind in two planes, celestial and spiritual, the one including all that answers to the celestial kingdom of heaven, the other to the spiritual kingdom.

 

The Good Soldier

Sermon: The Good Soldier

This talk was given for Remembrance Day on Thursday, November 11, 2010, at the Olivet New Church in Toronto.

THE GOOD SOLDIER

Remembrance Day Address by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

At 11:00 this morning, we will pause and join the rest of the country in 2 minutes of silence.  In those 2 minutes we honour and remember those brave men and women who offered their lives in service to their country.  We honour the courage they showed in their willingness to lay down their lives for their friends.

Remembrance Day is held on the 11th of November, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the first World War.  In that war, over a hundred thousand Canadians crossed the Atlantic to fight on foreign soil, to defend their allies’ homelands.  In battles like Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, they proved themselves to be valiant and courageous soldiers, winning victory at the cost of many lives.

On Remembrance Day, we remember those who fought in that war – and those who fought in the wars that followed.  Since that war, Candians have fought and died in the Second World War, the Korean War, the Afghan War, and on peacekeeping missions around the world.  Today, over 2,000 Canadians are stationed on active duty in Afghanistan, and there are thousands more in the Canadian forces who, by joining the military, have declared that they are willing to sacrifice their lives in defence of their homeland.

Today we honour these men and women for the love they have shown to their country.  A passage from the Writings for the New Church says that it is good and right that we should honour those who are willing to lay down their lives in defence of their homeland, out of love for their country.  That passage says, “A person’s country should be loved, not as one loves himself, but more than himself.  This is a law inscribed on the human heart; from which has come the well-known principle, which every true man endorses, that if the country is threatened with ruin from an enemy or any other source, it is noble to die for it, and glorious for a soldier to shed his blood for it. This is said because so great should be one’s love for it. It should be known that those who love their country and render good service to it from good will, after death love the Lord’s kingdom, for then that is their country; and those who love the Lord’s kingdom love the Lord Himself, because the Lord is the all in all things of His kingdom” (TCR 414).

This morning we read another passage, from the book Doctrine of Charity.  That passage talked about charity in the commander of an army.  That book goes on to describe charity in a military officer, and charity in a common soldier.  All of these people, it is said, act from charity when they willingly go to war for the sake of defense.  Those who are in charity fight not from a desire to attack others or for their own glory, but from a desire to protect their country, to protect what is good and innocent.  And just as good soldiers do not invade or attack – except if that is part of their defense – so the angels never attack evil spirits, but defend us against their attacks.  When evil spirits attack us with thoughts and feelings of evil, the angels are there to offer us hope, to offer us love and wisdom for our protection.  They do this from the Lord, and the Lord does the same – He always acts from a desire to defend and protect, never a desire to attack or to harm.

This love from the Lord – the desire to protect others – is the love that inspires a good solder.  The book Conjugial Love tells us that there are two universal spheres, or atmospheres, that flow out from the Lord throughout heaven and throughout the entire universe.  These two spheres are a love of procreation, and a love of protecting that which has been procreated – that is, a love of protecting the things that have been born into the world.  The love of protecting one’s country comes from this love of protecting the things that the Lord has created, and especially protecting His children from attackers.  It is a love that the Lord has within Himself, and He is the source of that love.

When the Lord was in the world, he fought from that love – a love of saving the human race from their enemies.  The Lord was a good solider, a warrior.  In the book of Revelation, He is described as having a sword coming out of His mouth; and in the prophets He is described as a great warrior and liberator for the land of Israel.  The battles he fought in this world were not against enemy soldiers, but against the power of hell itself.  And in all those battles he fought from a love for other people, not for himself.  The book Arcana Coelestia says, “In all His combats of temptations the Lord never fought from the love of self, or for Himself, but for all in the universe, consequently, not that He might become the greatest in heaven, for this is contrary to the Divine Love, and scarcely even that He might be the least; but only that all others might become something, and be saved” (AC 1812).  He laid down His life, not for his own sake, but for the sake of all people, including us today.  The Lord said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  He was talking there especially about His own life – he was about to lay it down for his friends, that is, for all the people who are willing to accept His love.

These words – that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends – refer especially to His own sacrifice – but they also hold true for ANYONE who is willing to lay down their lives for their friends.  That love that he fought from – a love for the human race – is a love that a good soldier shares.  It is a love that inspires him to deeds of great sacrifice.  It is a love that carries him through long nights and terrible warfare.  And it is the Lord’s love, although he feels it as his own.  When a soldier feels that passionate love to stand up for what is right, to defend the people he loves, he is feeling the Lord’s presence within his heart.

That love inspires soldiers to fight for their country – but it’s a love that is in each one of us, too, whether or not we ever fight in a war.  The Lord encourages each one of us to be a warrior.  There are times in our lives when we need to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of something greater – times when we have to sacrifice our own desires, our own self-satisfaction, to protect something important.  It could mean speaking out against something wrong, even if we know it will cost us our jobs.  It could mean standing strong for the truth, even if we know it will lose us friends.  And sometimes to does literally mean going to war in defense of our own country, putting our own lives on the line for the sake of others.

The good soldier does not go to war because he loves war, but because he desires peace.  War itself is never the Lord’s will.  In war, hellish things happen.  But the Lord permits war for the sake of avoiding even greater evil; he permits it so that people are able to see the real and disastrous effects of holding hatred for others, or cherishing an inordinate lust for power.  The goal of every good soldier is peace – true peace, heavenly peace.  This is not the apparent peace that comes when one country dominates another, or the false peace in a nation where the ruler treats his people as slaves.  True, heavenly peace comes from following the Lord in freedom.  That is what the men and the women who have fought and died for this country have truly fought for – the freedoms that we all enjoy, the most important of which is this: the freedom to follow God as we see fit.  When we follow the Lord from our own free will, there are battles we must face – but this is the path that leads to true peace.  Today we honour and thank those who have served to defend our freedom.  And we thank the Lord for inspiring them and us with His love, a love of eternally defending what is true and good.

The Lord said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Amen.

LESSONS: John 15:9-15; Rev. 19:11-21; Charity 164

Charity 164. Charity in the Commander of an army. By the commander of an army is meant its highest officer, whether he be king or archduke, or one constituted commander who holds authority from them. If he looks to the Lord and shuns evils as sins, and if he acts sincerely, justly, and faithfully in the affairs of his generalship and command, he does goods of use, which are goods of charity. And as he perpetually meditates upon them, applies himself to and executes them, he becomes charity. If he is king or archduke, he does not love war, but peace; even in war he continually loves peace. He does not go to war except for the protection of his country, and thus is not an aggressor, but a defender. But afterwards, when war is begun, if so be that aggression is defense, he becomes also an aggressor. In battle, if he has not been born otherwise, he is brave and valiant; after battle he is mild and merciful. In battle he would fain be a lion; but after battle, a lamb. In his inner self he does not exult in the overthrow of his enemy, and in the honor of victory; but in the deliverance of his country and his people from the invasion of an enemy, and the destruction and ruin they would inflict. He acts prudently; cares faithfully for his army, as the father of a family for his children and servants; and loves them, everyone, according as he does his duty sincerely and valiantly; and many such things. Cunning, with him, is not cunning, but prudence.

Coleman’s Blog | The thoughts and reflections of a New Church (Swedenborgian) minister

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